Dreams

 

Sit back. My dears, EBL is going to get all reminiscent.

Once upon a time, when the world was young, finding out information was difficult. There was no Google, if toy can believe such a thing and no Ask Jeeves, nor Lycos, nor even Excite. Not so much as a pixel of search engine goodness at the fingertips of even the most advanced computer scientist.

In those days EBL was a keen young thing at school and one day she had a lesson in English where the supply teacher was interesting. This in itself was shocking, with all due respect to Mrs P who was the usual teacher. Mrs P did her best but she was worn down by years of service to the cause of drumming Dickens and Hardy and Shakespeare into adolescent heads more interested in pop music and fashion and dancing. No one could sustain interest in the face of such barbarity.

The young supply teacher was fresh meat though and still had the dewy optimism of the newly qualified, all ready to change the world. So she talked to us about Old English poetry. I suspect my classmates do not recall this at all, but it struck a chord with EBL.  The chord was, however somewhat limited.

I remembered a fragment of verse because it sounded cool. I liked languages, even then, and it sounded interesting – English but not English. I knew it involved a battle. Well of course it did – it was Anglo Saxon poetry after all.

While I was nosing around my local library one day (those were places you could go to find books and borrow them, another feature of life now much reduced) I decided to see if I could find it again. There were no books on Anglo Saxon poetry in our little local library so I moved on and found one on Schiller which was pretty good, along with a copy of Candide by Voltaire. Ah, A-Levels.

So I left it alone.

When I got to university I asked friends who were studying English if they knew what it was. They blinked at me and muttered about The Faerie Queen and drank a few more pints.

So I left it alone.

One day while the Offspringses were older and studying and the Internet had been invented I searched on-line. But there was little to see and most of it was on UseNet which was a wild place not suited to discussing Anglo Saxon poetry.

So I left it alone.

When I was older I spent some time in another library, in a bigger town, while the Offspringses were in the children’s section, looking for Anglo Saxon poetry. But there wasn’t any still.

So I left it alone.

One day a friend mentioned the same poem and asked if I knew what it was, and I had to say I knew of it but not its name or date or even really its subject – beyond a battle, which wasn’t much help.

So I left it alone.

One day much later, when it was a new millennium and I was a little bored and Google had been invented I thought I would try again. The incredible thing is that even after all the years (probably around 35 years had passed by now) I still remembered the phrases and almost the spelling. And the other incredible thing is Google.

Google worked out I meant “hige sceal the heardre, heorte the cenre” when I typed in “hige sceal heorte” – that is one fine algorithm.

Google found the poem.

So I didn’t leave it alone.

I was able to read about it and to read the text in modern and Old English. I fell in love.

I found a study group of like-minded souls and have discovered more about this period of history and had incredible joy from sharing it and learning more about both the history and the language, the culture and the literature. I have met lovely people and been to brilliant events and read amazing books.

Yesterday I went to a course at the University of York on Icelandic and Norse sagas, which inter-relate to the Anglo Saxon period very tightly (Vikings, duh!), and learned how Skaldic Poetry is composed and fell in love again.

This little shoot of happiness has been growing and growing after long years fallow.

Sometimes we have to wait until the time is right.

Never forget your dreams. May the time be right for yours soon.

Namaste.

 

 

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A funny thing happened on the way to the office

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Well my dears, here’s a strange to-do! The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that in my last post I included a photo of my legendary toothpick knitting challenge. To be fair I didn’t think many of you would look at it closely, but that just teaches me a lesson, good and proper.

It happened like this.

The day after I posted my whinge abut DPNs, I had to go across to Head Office for a Very Important Meeting. Naturally I sprang from my bed in the grey and chilly dawn, as eager as a squirrel after acorns, bright eyed and bushy tailed. I bustled in and out of hallways and showers and kitchens configuring breakfast, clothing and toiletries (not necessarily in that order). Within the hour I was booted, suited and ready to go, and so I went. Most importantly I took with me my briefcase  containing my knitting, along with some papers, tickets for the train and my phone.

The morning train to Leeds is a proper caution, packed with giggling schoolchildren from the kinds of families that can afford to send their children miles away to schools where the teachers may or may not have chins. Apparently commuting form the age of 11 makes a man of you; a very tired man, it must be said, but such is life. Then there are the grey-haired 30-somethings who toil in the industrial heartlands of York, wrangling whippets and wrestling puddings for a fiver a go. In addition the keen observer may note bespectacled academics heading for Leeds and the one and only EBL.

I found my seat and started to knit. There’s no mobile signal so emails and phone calls are out of the question. Knittingis the only answer, as in so many scenarios. The lack of signal doesn’t stop the kiddies trying, and we all enjoy being lulled by the endless rounds of “Benedict? Benedict? Can you hear me?” which punctuate the carriage air in tones of constant amazement, as if the Howardian Hills only arrived last night and the phones have always worked before.

The other thing punctuating the air that morning, or perhaps I should say glutinating (as in making it glutinous), was a perfume. Somebody, probably a female, was wearing a year’s supply of Rose Garden Extreme, and generously sharing it with the rest of us. I can only assume she, or possibly he, let us not make gendered assumptions, had had an unfortunate incident before leaving home and not had time to rectify the damage.

Anyway, I was breathing through my mouth and trying to think of fresh air and open skies, when a voice enquired hesitantly:

“Do you write that blog?”

I ignored it, obviously, because who would respond to that kind of a question at 7.32 in the morning? A nutter. That’s who.

The voice repeated its interrogation, adding “I saw your knitting. I recognised the wool marker and stitch counter.”

Well, that made it alright then.

I looked up to meet the eyes of a mousy individual in a dark wool coat and carrying a rather bedraggled back-pack. She leaned across the table and added “I really liked your post.”

Obviously an individual of sophistication and distinction was concealed by an outwardly anodyne appearance, and not the murderous serial killer I had initially assumed.

Apparently she lived not too far from me, and worked at one of the hotels just outside Leeds as a catering manager. I vaguely recognised her form other commuting days; the crowd is pretty much the same year in, year out. We had a very pleasant time swapping tales of stitches, websites and TV shows we both enjoyed, although I struggled to forgive her for “Call the Midwife” and I suspect she was confounded by my passion for “Waking the Dead”. We both agreed on the wonderful “Wolf Hall” though, as does anyone sane. It’s fiction, get over it.

It was rather strange meeting someone who effectively knew more about me than I did about them. I admit I felt a little vulnerable. I mean, I don’t use my birth-certified name here, in case you wondered, but I suppose it wouldn’t be hard to work it out if you wanted. Some of you do in fact know me in the human world anyway. Nevertheless I felt a ambushed, bamboozled, embarrassed and quite stressed.

In short my fanfollowerstalker and I chatted until we got to Garforth, when inexplicably my new found friend had to depart. Does anyone get off at Garforth when heading west? Really? Why?

That was when I knew I had fallen asleep and it was time to wake up and face the day. It was like that moment in “Dallas” – which I never watched, but even I have heard about.

It turned out I had no fanfollwerstalker after all. I felt some relief but also a little piece of my heart broke. How contrary!

Suppose you were suddenly famous (or else, remember the time just before you became famous). How would you cope when the first person come sup and asks for an autograph, metaphorically or literally?

Namaste.

Future Bright

What did you want to be when you were fifteen?” asked the avuncular presenter on Radio 4; he also pointed out that while he knew he had a few listeners who were not yet fifteen, nevertheless the average audience age was 58. I felt younger for a moment, when being below average seemed OK, then chided myself for ageism. The article was related to a survey of teenage aspiration which had proven to be mismatched against predictions for future labour market demand.

“Since when did that matter?” I wondered. “Surely most of us wanted to be something extraordinary, but knew deep down it may never quite work out>”

What I meant was, I knew. I didn’t mind either. I always saw something honourable and even desirable about being ordinary.

When I was fifteen I was torn between options. I wanted to get married, have six children and live in the country baking bread, keeping hens and raising artists.

The other option was to be a teacher. I understood I would need to make myself a living, that I was unlikely to get into astronaut school, given that I was too fat to be an air hostess and also decided to take German instead of Physics. Xenolinguistics would be brilliant but I am still waiting on NASA discovering (or admitting to) more than evidence of water on Mars billions of years ago implying that there may have been organisms there once, or fossilised nanobacteria in meteorites.

Teaching appealed to me on a number of levels. I had had a happy experience at primary school, and thought teachers were great. I liked keeping an eye on younger children. Finally primary school teaching did not require specialisation in a single subject. You didn’t become a maths teacher or an English teacher or a biology teacher. You just were a teacher, and taught everything. That suited me completely because I was what the call an “all-rounder” (and not just because of my endomorphic propensities).

So there I was being a sensible teenager, a thing of vanishingly small probability. But I listened to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” on the radio and knew that in an infinite universe anything was possible, and indeed could even be extrapolated from a fairy cake. So I also knew it was possible, if improbable, that dreams could come true.

I wanted to be either a full time mum or a teacher because they were realistic options that I thought I might achieve. What I dreamed of being was different.

No one asks you that, though, do they? They don’t say “What do you dream of being when you grow up?”

I dreamed of being a time traveller, or the first person to walk on Mars of the Moons of Saturn or an as yet undiscovered planet out past Alpha Centauri. I dreamed of being a famous explorer, a starship captain, of discovering the cure for cancer in the Amazon rain forest, or the cure for war at a Tibetan monastery high in the Himalayas. I dreamed of saving the rhino and the giant panda and the Siberian tiger. I dreamed of being a witch who could cast spells to bring people to their senses, solve murders and thwart evil villains in their lairs. I dreamed of going back and stopping Hitler. I dreamed, you see, of making a difference.

Some days I still do. Mostly I encourage other, younger, folk to dream. “It’s too late for me,” I try to tell them, “but you can still do it. You have time.”

Pathetic, my dears. Absolutely pathetic.

Why should I give up just because time and gravity have ganged up on me? In the end someone has to beat the odds. “Look at Catherine Cookson,” I tell myself. “She only wrote her first novel in her forties.”

Well, we haven’t had any poetry in the Bag o’ Bits ™ for a few days now, so I’ll let Milton chip in. In his poem, “On His Blindness”, particularly appealing to me given my own struggles with visual decline, he wrote:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.

Milton was a bit of a bore to my mind, but my dears, he was right and sometimes we must be patient. It’s a pain, I know, and I detest it. I am not a person with great reserves of patience. It’s as well that I became neither a full time mum nor a teacher. I can see I am not suited for such things. Milton knew what his talent was, and was frustrated at not being able to use it fully. I am yet to discover mine, and so am frustrated at not using it fully. Life, eh?

Today I remembered that bright, hot feeling I had at fifteen when the world lay before me to be plundered for experiences. I plundered a little. I am glad of that. I didn’t choose a path and follow it, but came adventurously by winding, unexpected roads. That has been the fun. I’m keeping a blindfold on, because knowing what comes next would be too dull.

It seems a bit of a paradox that a bright future is best seen with a blindfold, but that’s just the way it is, out here on the Moons of Saturn.

Namaste.

Dreamtime

I don’t often remember my dreams nowadays, but I did the other morning. I know you will be eager to hear about it so make yourself comfortable and I’ll begin.

Before I do, though, hands up anyone who dreams in colour? For some reason this question seems to keep coming up and I am somewhat bemused. Doesn’t everyone?  How would you know which bottle of wine to pick otherwise, or is that just me?

To the dream then…

The reason I asked about colour was that it was a strange mixture of black and white with colour mixed in, like they do for special effects sometimes. It was a dark and snowy night, so things were pretty monochrome naturally. We were in a wood, with the moon shining through gaps in the wind-blown clouds. I thought to myself, “This is like a dream I had when I was little and being chased by a witch on her broomstick in the forest.”

Of course there was no witch, that was a silly childish dream.

I was in a race. I had to ride an old Victorian bicycle, a boneshaker (although the umpire called it a Penny Farthing, which it clearly wasn’t; the man was an idiot). I was dressed in uniform because I was a member of the US Cavalry. Do you suffer gender changes in dreams too? Anyway, I was in the race for the honour of whatever group of cavalry people I was supposed to belong to. The uniform was brown. I could see the trousers as I cycled through the snowdrifts. It was hard work.

My opponent was a Mountie on a moose.  This was the really colourful bit. His coat was bright red so he showed up in the snow and the moonlight.

The moose was moose colour, but it was not a normal moose. I think that goes without saying, but this moose was a Dr Seuss Moose. It had big floppy furry feet, like a Muppet, and it galumphed over the snow without sinking. I felt this gave the Mountie an unfair advantage.  However, as moose (meece?) don’t like to run uphill, I was holding my own despite the snow. Maybe it all evened out.

We were crashing and gasping through the trees in the dark and the blizzard. Have you seen The Snowman? It was like the motorcycle ride through the woods, although we didn’t see any foxes. The Mountie kept yelling to me, but he was yelling in Quebecois, which I couldn’t follow what with the wind and the pedalling and the being so out of breath. I thought, “Thank goodness I’m in the cavalry because it means I’m fitter than in real life.” Do you have that kind of layer of awareness when you dream, sometimes, that it is a dream, and just kind of interesting to watch?

I would like to tell you I won. I would like to tell you I made him eat my slush. At least I didn’t lose. I was saved by Sigoth’s alarm going off.

OK, it was a stupid ream without a beginning, middle or end. Aren’t they all? And I never promised you a structured and articulate narrative.

Sleep tight.

Namaste.

 

Through a glass darkly

Kallisto Destiny

Well, Plinky, I am really drawing a blank with this one. I rarely remember any dreams so it’s quite hard to tell whether they are prophetic. Furthermore I don’t really subscribe to that kind of thing. I hold the rationalist view that we can probably predict a number of things from sub-conscious messages or probabilities, and doing so while sleeping is the best opportunity for our brains to engage in this activity. After all, what is sleep actually for anyway?

I’m really hoping the dreams I can remember are not prophetic; as the most vivid ones are those I had as a child 40 or more years ago, if they were prophetic, then they were incredibly long range.

Let me see: a white horse coming down the stairs – no. A witch on a broomstick chasing me and my friend through the woods – no, not that either. Dead grandpa – well, yes, except not in the way it was in the dream! Apparently my grandfather did not shuffle off this mortal coil doing a wheelie down the road on his moped. Nor did he run into a burning house to rescue my cat – which I never had in the first place. My garden is not mysteriously full of rabbits. My school is not under attack by men in wet suits – I might have seen that last year on Dr. Who actually, but I’m not sure predicting a TV story counts. I’m very pleased to say the one with the mad axe murderer hss definitely not come true – yet.

What with the nature of time being quantum and all, dreams might be as good a way as any of seeing future events. But I prefer to stick firmly to my logical interpretation here. Recently the paper ran a story about an algorithm developed by clever people at a large IT company (probably IBM) to predict criminal behaviour patterns. Not in a Philip K Dick “Minority Report” way, but more in a Tesco putting-the nappies-near-the-beer way based on complex statistical modelling of historical factors and detailed analysis of current trends. I’ll bet our brains can do it too, and when we sleep we work through all the possibilities without the distractions of living to hold us back.

As the Bard said:

“What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how

infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and

admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like

a god!”

Did I mention the dream about the chocolate fountain and the rather athletic young man? Sadly not prophetic either, as it turned out.

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